Duncan Slade Published

Brewers Oppose 431% Beer Barrel Tax Increase

A Russian River Brewing Company bartender pours a glass of the newly released Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer.

West Virginia craft brewers are against one part of Gov. Jim Justice’s income tax repeal plan that would raise the beer barrel tax by 431%.

Every state has a version of this tax, but if the governor’s plan is passed by the legislature, West Virginia would have the second-highest beer barrel tax in the nation behind Alaska.

“We’re one of the industries in West Virginia that people can be proud of,” said Aaron Rote, president of the West Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, “We’re growing, we’re putting people to work. And so it’s worth considering how something like this can really throw a wrench in that.”

Rote said the pandemic hurt craft breweries, but he feels lucky — none have closed.

“This is just not the way that we thought we would be rewarded for the effort,” he said. “The timing is just, it’s just terrible.”

The governor’s plan would increase the beer barrel tax from $5.50 to $29.25 on thousands of barrels a year at each brewery.

He likes the idea of no income tax, but says the state economy isn’t ready, and it shouldn’t come at the cost of stopping a growing industry.

The number of craft breweries in the state has nearly doubled since it was 15 breweries back in 2016.

Rote also said, if the tax increase is enacted, that craft beer prices would have to go up, and it would be harder to attract new customers and new breweries to the state.

The plan is currently under consideration in the legislature.